Use these situational questions for interviews with candidates for management, sales and customer service roles to find high-quality candidates that always know how to handle a tricky situation.

Why use situational interview questions?

Situational interview questions help you figure out how candidates react to work-related scenarios. 

Situational questions can help you find candidates who are great at:

  • Collaborating: Interpersonal and collaboration skills help you find candidates who can handle conflict and manage difficult relationships with coworkers, managers and clients.
  • Decision-making: Find out how candidates approach important strategic choices.
  • Problem-solving: These candidates are aces at coming up with effective/creative solutions.
  • Organizing: Find out how candidates prioritize their work and respond under pressure.
  • Managing: These candidates can balance the work of their direct reports and set achievable targets.

Top tip: Situational questions can help you compare candidates and select those who match your company culture. Look for candidates who show professionalism, share your company’s values and have fresh ideas that will contribute to your team.

Situational interview questions

  • If our competitor released a new product, how would you suggest we respond?
  • What would you do if you discovered your supervisor was breaking the company’s code of conduct?
  • How would you prioritize in the face of a deadline?
  • Multiple projects and tight deadlines: how do you stay on track?
  • What would you do if you noticed a key metric dropping over time?

How to ace situational interview questions

  • Be prepared: Write down the most important skills for the role and tailor questions to reflect these skills. 
  • Use hypothetical scenarios: You’re testing how your candidate will respond so use hypothetical scenarios to get deeper insight.  
  • Give candidates’ time: Situational questions can be tough to answer. Give candidates time to think before answering.
  • Look for creativity: There’s always more than one right answer to these questions. Look for candidates who give you unusual, creative responses.
  • Stick to the role: Describe realistic scenarios that might actually happen to give you better insight to how they’d perform on the job.
  • Pay attention: Your candidates’ way of thinking can tell you a lot about their work style. Do they value feedback from coworkers? Are they collaborative? Do they ask for help when they’re unsure? Are they methodical or do they prefer more out-of-the-box solutions?
  • Make sure they’re adaptable: Check how open candidates are to following guidelines by asking them to present you a solution, then tell them how you’d work it out. 
  • Look for open-minded candidates: Keep an eye out for candidates who are open to criticism and demonstrate adaptability.

Candidates to avoid

  • They go off-topic: If candidates derail from the original subject, it’s a sign they struggle to stay focused.
  • Quick, generic answers: If a candidate can’t describe specific situations, they’re probably trying to avoid answering the question.
  • Unrealistic answers: The ideal candidate sticks to the point. Avoid candidates who give unrealistic answers. 
  • They lack soft skills: There’s more to a great candidate than qualifications. Look for high-morale, empathy and good collaboration skills.
  • Silent candidates: If a candidate can’t perform in an interview, it’s unlikely they can perform in another difficult situation.

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